Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 7.5.17 — Richard Corcoran’s haul; Anna Eskamani to run in HD 47; Stand Your Ground law declared unconstitutional; State opioid crisis worsens; It’s scalloping season!

in Peter/Top Headlines by

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

There is no mistaking what the calendar says today is: it’s July 5th, the day after Independence Day. Many of you may be getting started a tad slower this morning after a day filled with BBQ, boating, swimming, fireworks, and more BBQ.

Today is the unofficial start to the second half of the rest of the year. It should be a dead period in Florida politics. But as we’ve seen throughout the first half of this year, there is no downtime.

There are three special elections for state legislative seats running at full gear. There was a candidate for House District 47 who is so ready to announce her candidacy, she announced on Monday — not exactly a day when it was easy to get reporters’ attention — that she is filing this week. And all of the 2018 contenders are making moves, including one possible gubernatorial candidate who has had a very busy month…


House Speaker Corcoran hauled in just over two million dollars in one month to a newly formed political committee.

Corcoran’s Watchdog PAC raised $2,010,000 in June, with major contributions from Norman Braman and from political committees run by Reps. Jose Oliva, Chris Sprowls and Carlos Trujillo.

Also making major contributions were Gary ChartrandJohn Kirtley, Charter Schools USA, Coca Cola, Disney, Florida Blue, the Florida Realtors, and TECO, among others.

The committee also raised about $183,000 at a fundraiser in June hosted by Orlando attorney John Morgan.

The conventional wisdom suggests that Corcoran will get into the gubernatorial race in April of 2018, which some think is too late for him to functionally raise enough money to catch frontrunner Adam Putnam. The CW also holds that Corcoran would have to rely on out-of-state donors, like the Koch brothers, to finance a possible run.

So much for the CW.

With this kind of fundraising activity, is there any doubt about Corcoran’s ability to play at the same level as Putnam or anyone else?

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“Gov. Scott mum on voter inquest as Democrats pounce” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration is looking over a letter from a federal commission set up by President Donald Trump asking for detailed personal information on Florida voters. But Scott hasn’t made a decision about whether to comply with the request and isn’t talking about it. ‘We have received the letter. We are reviewing it,’ Florida Department of State spokeswoman Sarah Revell wrote in an email. Scott spokesman John Tupps, when pressed for comment, said his office would like more time to review the request.

“Adam Putnam’s net worth now $8.7 million, report shows” via Florida PoliticsAgriculture Commissioner Putnam on Friday posted an $8.7 million net worth, according to his financial disclosure filed with the state … The latest filing shows Putnam’s worth rising incrementally from $7.2 million in his 2013 filing, the earliest still available on the commission’s website. Assets include his 20 percent stake in Putnam Groves, his family’s citrus business in Bartow, valued at $2.9 million. He also listed his $260,000 house in Tallahassee and his Bartow home, valued at $174,000.

Pam Keith’s unusual cart-before-the-horse CD 18 run” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Is Keith actually running for Congress? The South Florida Democrat made headlines weeks ago when she declared she would officially be running against Republican rising star Brian Mast for Florida’s 18th Congressional District. The only problem: Keith didn’t actually file to run for the seat until this weekend, despite telling media outlets and the voters of CD 18 she had done so in the middle of June. On Sunday, Keith formally filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Elections Commission … Now Keith really is officially a candidate for CD 18, a district she recently returned to after a stay in Miami — but other aspects of her candidacy are yet to add up. Despite her recent filing status, Keith hasn’t wasted any time gathering contributions for her congressional campaign, sending out emails emblazoned with an official logo for a campaign that didn’t exist officially until this weekend.

Tim Canova reports he raised $32,000 in first two weeks” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – … after he kicked off his rematch against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz … Canova raised $31,928 through 1,323 in small donations with an average donation of $24, according to his campaign. Wasserman Schultz raised about $269,000 through March and hasn’t yet announced what she raised through June.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to fundraise for Jose Felix Diaz’s Senate race” via Amy Sherman of the Miami HeraldGimenez is the special guest at a fundraiser for Felix Diaz‘s state senate campaign at the Biltmore Hotel July 18. Diaz is running in the July 25 primary for the special election in District 40 created by the resignation of Sen. Frank Artiles.

Democrat Anna Eskamani to file to run in House District 47” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – Firebrand progressive activist Eskamani intends to file to run for the House District 47 seat expected to be vacated next year as Republican incumbent state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park runs for Congress instead. Eskamani, director of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said she has been planning since December to run in HD 47, a district that covers east-central Orlando including downtown, Winter Park and much of east-central Orange County. She is 27, but has established herself as a leader of Orlando’s progressive Democrats, and is known for her passionate, scene-stealing speeches at most local left-wing protests. “My commitment is to serving this district as a strong, visionary, bold, Democrat that our district is thirsty for, hungry and starving for,” she said.

“A night at the theatre’ starts Shawn Harrison’s 2018 campaign – Harrison, a Tampa Republican, kicked off his re-election effort for HD 63 with a fundraiser at the Tampa Theatre downtown, featuring a guest appearance by Democratic Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. His New Tampa-area seat is a swing district: Harrison, first elected in 2010, was defeated in 2012 by Democrat Mark Danish, then won the seat back in 2014. Last year, he narrowly defeated Democrat and former Tampa City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione. For 2018, he as yet faces no opposition, according to the Division of Elections website. Harrison, an attorney, currently is vice chair both of the Health Innovation Subcommittee and the Rules & Policy Committee.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a Democrat, appeared at a fundraiser for Republican House member Shawn Harrison at the Tampa Theatre.


Scott signs death warrant, scheduling Florida’s first execution since 2016” via Gal Tziperman Lotan of the Orlando SentinelMark Asay was convicted of shooting and killing two people in Jacksonville in 1987: Robert Lee Booker and Robert McDowell. Scott set his execution for 6 p.m. Aug. 24. He is one of 367 people on death row in Florida. Scott previously had signed a death warrant for Asay, scheduling the execution for March 17, 2016. The Florida Supreme Court delayed the execution as lawmakers and courts grappled with what the federal court ruling meant for people already on death row in Florida. The last person executed in Florida was Oscar Ray Bolin, who was given a lethal injection Jan. 7, 2016. Five days later, the U.S. Supreme Court released a decision deeming the method Florida used to sentence people to death unconstitutional. State law required only seven of 12 jurors to vote in favor of the death penalty to allow judges to send a defendant to death row, giving too much power to judges and not enough to juries, the court ruled. The jury in Asay’s case recommended the death penalty by a vote of 9-3, which under the new law would be insufficient. But because his sentence was finalized well before the 2002 Ring decision, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that it is constitutional and that he is not entitled to a new sentencing hearing.

– “Murderers leave Florida’s death row after Milton Hurst ruling; system ‘a mess,’ expert says” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Miami judge rules new Stand-Your-Ground law is unconstitutional” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald – Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch ruled that lawmakers overstepped their authority in modifying the law this year to force prosecutors to disprove a defendant’s self-defense claim at a pre-trial hearing. The judge ruled that under Florida’s constitution, that change should have been crafted by the Florida Supreme Court, not the Legislature. “As a matter of constitutional separation of powers, that procedure cannot be legislatively modified,” Hirsch wrote in a 14-page order. The ruling is a victory for prosecutors who have firmly opposed a law they believe makes it easier for defendants to get away with murder and other violent crime. Hirsch’s ruling isn’t binding – other trial courts across Florida can follow the law if they choose. But it does get the ball rolling on the appeals process, and possibly getting the law reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court.

“Florida’s departing fiscal watchdog used public scrutiny as a weapon” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – For all the talk of shrinking government and making it work like a business, there is one man in Tallahassee who knows exactly why that talk is folly. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who stepped down as CFO on Friday after serving 17 years in state government, the last of which as the state’s fiscal watchdog, knows where every penny of the state’s $83 billion budget goes. He also knows where to find the waste – and he’s tried to expose it. Atwater, 59, retired to become vice president of initiatives and CFO at Florida Atlantic University. In an interview with the Herald/Times last week, he outlined what more needs to be done to make state government work more effectively and why he believes Florida’s sunshine laws are essential to protecting taxpayers’ millions.

Florida consumer sentiment rebounds upward in June” via Florida Politics – Consumer sentiment among Floridians rose 2.1 points in June to 96.4, changing course after two months of decline … perceptions of personal financial situation now compared with a year ago showed the greatest increase, up 6.4 points from 85.5 to 91.9. Opinions as to whether now is a good time to buy a big-ticket household item such as an appliance increased 1.7 points to 102, although readings vary across demographic groups. “In particular, positive perceptions are seen among women, those under age 60 and those with an annual income of $50,000 and over, while they are negative among men, seniors and those with income under $50,000,” said Hector Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. Expectations of personal finances a year from now rose 3.5 points to 104.8. “Overall, Floridians appear to be more optimistic. Most of the increase is due to the positive perceptions of consumers’ current and future personal finance situation,” Sandoval said.

Pension fund up 14 percent for fiscal year” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Florida’s $155 billion pension fund is on track to show a positive gain for the eighth straight year, as the state’s fiscal year ended Friday …  Although the final number will not be calculated for some time, State Board of Administration officials said they expected the return to be near an estimate showing the fund was up 14.24 percent for the fiscal year. The anticipated double-digit return for the fund — which pays retirement benefits for state workers, teachers, county employees and university personnel — will be a much stronger showing than last year, when the fund eked out a 0.54 percent positive return.

Health department files rules for new medical marijuana law” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – State health officials unveiled rules for medical marijuana … The recently renamed Office of Medical Marijuana Use at the Department of Health published its Notice of Adoption to carry out legislation passed in the 2017 special session (SB 8A). The department is relying on an emergency rulemaking process authorized under the bill … “This will enable the department to quickly implement the time-sensitive requirements of the legislation. Following emergency rulemaking, the department is committed to working collaboratively with the public through traditional rulemaking to establish a patient-centered medical marijuana program,” said spokeswoman Mara Gambineri said in an email.

New state laws will expand concealed guns to public facilities” via The Associated Press – Starting Saturday, concealed guns will be permitted at college campuses in Georgia and Kansas, more public buildings and bus stations in Tennessee, and at the Iowa state Capitol as new laws take effect continuing the steady expansion of gun rights in Republican-controlled states … Georgia’s law will allow people with concealed handgun permits to take their weapons into classrooms but not dormitories, and college sports fans will be able to pack weapons while tailgating but not inside stadiums. A Tennessee law allowing guns in many local public buildings, bus stations and parks can be voided if authorities instead opt to install metal detectors staffed by security guards. Concealed guns will be allowed at college campuses in Kansas as a result of a 2013 law that applies to public buildings lacking heightened security such as metal detectors and guards. A four-year exemption for universities expires Saturday. In Iowa, where permit holders will be able to carry concealed guns in the Capitol, the state Supreme Court has responded by banning weapons in all courthouses statewide.

Federal officials to review endangered status of Florida panther” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – Federal rules require the agency to review the status of each endangered or threatened species every five years, and it’s time for that routine review, explained Larry Williams, South Florida field supervisor for the Fish and Wildlife Service. But at least one aspect of the review won’t be routine at all. “One of the most interesting things we’re going to review is the taxonomy,” Williams said … Questions have been raised for years about whether the Florida panther is really a distinct sub-species of the pumas found out West, and thus deserving of legal protection. The questions took a different turn after 1995, when state officials tried an unprecedented experiment to save the panther from inbreeding and genetic defects by bringing in eight female mountain lions from Texas to breed with them. The cross-breeding saved the panthers, and sparked a baby boom. The panther population, estimated to number no more than 20 to 30 in the mid-1990s, now is estimated at around 200.


More people were killed by fentanyl and heroin in the first half of 2016 than all of 2015, leading drug treatment advocates to call on state lawmakers to do more to combat the growing opioid crisis, reports Michael Auslen with the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau.

According to the report, opioids – mostly heroin and fentanyl – killed an average of 14 people a day in Florida during the first half of 26. At that rate, last year’s fatal overdoses are on pace to rise by a record 36 percent.

While state lawmakers have taken some steps to combat the uptick in opioid deaths, drug treatment advocates say more needs to tackle the rise in deaths.

“It’s killing more people a day than traffic accidents and than guns,” said Mark Fontaine, executive director of the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association in an interview with the Times/Herald. “There’s a lot more that could be done and needs to be done.”

— The crisis, according to the report, is rooted in a problem officials promised was getting better. Back in 2010, eight people were dying a day from overdosing on opioids, most of which were painkillers.

That led to the state’s pill mill crack down, where law enforcement used drug trafficking laws to jail doctors who overprescribed. The Legislature also required statewide tracking of painkillers prescriptions.

The success rates were reported twice a year, when the state’s medical examiners released data showing overdose deaths were in a decline. Those same reports tell a different story now.

— Auslen reports that in 2014 the death toll started to tick up, “even as overdoses from oxycodone, which was responsible for most of the pill mill deaths, stabilized. The reason? Those deaths associated with heroin, fentanyl and carfentanyl rose fast.”

The most recent report, released last month, showed more people were killed by fentanyl and heroin in the first half of 2016 than in all of 2015.

— Lawmakers have taken steps to cut off the supply of opioids. They OK’d a bill — backed by Attorney General Pam Bondi and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott — that would put people caught with four grams of fentanyl or carfentanyl in prison for three years.

“Will a three-year minimum mandatory make a difference? Heck yeah, it will,” Bondi said later. “It’s going to get these monsters off the streets.”

They also passed bills requiring doctors to log prescriptions in the statewide painkiller database by the end of the next business day and set aside $10.5 million for medication that reduce opioid dependency. And Scott’s office said it was reviewing ways to work with the Legislature to continue to fight the opioid crisis.

Scott adds another 60 days to opioid health emergency” via Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach PostScott’s original executive order, signed May 3, had been set to expire Monday. But he signed an order late this past week extending the declaration for two more months. The order allows the state to quickly draw from a two-year $54 million federal grant awarded to Florida April 21 to provide prevention, treatment and recovery-support services. Without the order, it would have taken months for the state to distribute the money to local communities. The declaration also calls for Florida Surgeon General Celeste Philip to issue a standing order requiring pharmacists to have on hand for first responders the overdose reversal drug naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan.


Florida Board of Education member seeks reappointment to seat” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay TimesMichael Olenick, first appointed to the board in January 2015, has asked Gov. Scott to give him a second term. A former trustee for Florida Virtual School, Olenick is an executive of a central Florida construction company and former assistant state attorney and Martin County attorney. He has continued to serve on the board pending his reappointment or the naming of someone else to the post. John Padget, the other board member whose time ended in December, is not eligible for reappointment because he served two consecutive terms.

“Personnel note: Brandon Larrabee departing News Service of Florida” via Florida Politics – Larrabee said in a recent Facebook post he is leaving professional journalism to attend law school at the University of Richmond. “I want to get off the sidelines,” he wrote. “(T)here are restrictions on what you can do as a reporter, restrictions that are necessary precisely because it is so important for us to be without fear or favor. I’d like to be part of the action now instead of someone whose job it is to explore and explain it.” The first week in August will be his last week in Tallahassee, he said. He’s been with NSF since 2011.

“Personnel note: Christopher Constance named FAC President” via Florida Politics – Charlotte County Commissioner Constance has been named president of the Florida Association of Counties (FAC), the association announced Friday. Constance was sworn in during the celebration dinner at the 2017 FAC Annual Conference and Educational Exposition in Palm Beach County. “Home rule and self-determination starts at home,” he said in a statement. “It is our citizens who are at the heart of our communities and we must increase civic engagement and volunteerism in public service. Stopping Tallahassee mandates and preemptions must come from our entire communities and not just our county commissions.”

New and renewed lobby registrations:

Matt Bryan, Smith Bryan & Myers: NTT Data, Inc.

Gus Corbella, Greenberg Traurig: Tahirih Justice Center

Edgar Castro, Nelson Diaz, Southern Strategy Group: Eldorado Resorts, Inc.

Ron LaFace, Capital City Consulting: H.H. Holdings, Inc.

Jerry McDaniel, Southern Strategy Group: Study Edge


“Let us now praise a famous (and good) newspaper” via Peter Schorsch and Jim RosicaWe’ve beat up on them before, but we have nothing but praise for the tenacious and relentless reporting of the Tallahassee Democrat as it digs into the percolating scandal surrounding the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) … The Democrat, led by editor William Hatfield, news director Jennifer Portman and publisher Skip Foster, has barreled through the saga since it first broke nearly two weeks ago. Coverage includes lengthy connect-the-dots pieces by veteran reporter Jeff Burlew and by Jeff Schweers, the Tampa Tribune’s last capital bureau reporter before the paper folded last year.

— ALOE —

Florida opens large stretch of Gulf Coast for scalloping” via The Associated Press – The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission opened an area from St. Vincent Island in Franklin County to the Pasco and Hernando County line to recreational scalloping over the weekend. A recreational salt water fishing license is required to gather bay scallops, and the limit is one pint of scallop meat per person or a half-gallon of scallop meat per boat. Scallopers can gather the mollusks by hand or with a dip net. Other parts of the coast, including St. Joseph’s Bay in Gulf County, will open for scalloping later this month.

How Americans order their steak” via Walt Hickey and Rachael Dottle of – Longhorn Steakhouse hooked us up here, agreeing to share aggregated data about how Americans prefer their steak. It turns out that Americans claim to like their steak a lot rarer than they actually do! There are serious differences in how people order different cuts, and we wanted to know why. “Every steak has a different fiber,” said Jens Dahlmann, the executive chef at Longhorn. “If you look at the most tender steak, it’s the tenderloin. That’s a steak that lends itself to barely cooking it. It’s got a very soft fiber and very sweet flavors to it. It works great for rare and medium-rare.” Prime rib also works great on the rarer side. Because it’s cooked slowly and at low temperatures, a rare order of prime rib can come out without the bloodiness that turns off many rare-averse people. Other steaks can handle more heat. Dahlmann suggests that home cooks invest in a high-quality meat thermometer to nail the perfect doneness every time. Any steak with an internal temperature from 95 degrees to 105 degrees Fahrenheit is rare, anything from 115 to 125 degrees is medium-rare and, according to FiveThirtyEight culture writer and cantankerous elitist Walt Hickey, anything above that is ruined.

Happy birthday belatedly to Rep. Dan RaulersonHappy 1st birthday to Emilia Rosica, daughter of our man in Tallahassee, Jim Rosica.



Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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